I’m spending a lot of time learning about the history of Mexican food lately, in preparation for the December Mexico City Experience. It’s a fascinating subject, and I was thrilled this week to learn that L.A. is getting a Mexican-food museum.
The Mexicans Cortez primarily encountered in what is now Mexico City were called the Mexica people. But their food culture was the result of centuries of development by the Teotihuacanos, Olmecs, Toltecs, Maya and many others.
Present day Mexico is probably the most important historic region globally for cultivation and domestication of some of the worlds most important foods, including corn, tomatoes, chocolate, beans, avocados, vanilla, sweet potatoes, chilies, squash, amaranth, agave and more.
When the “Pilgrims” arrived in the New World, north American native populations kept domesticated turkeys. But the consumption of domesticated turkey meat by Native Americans in what is now the United States is a relatively recent phenomenon, probably only around 500 or 600 years before the first “Thanksgiving.”
It took that long for the culture of turkey eating to reach the North from Mexico, where turkeys were first domesticated by at least 800 BC.
The Mayans, Aztecs and other people’s domesticated many plant species, but few animals ones. Turkeys were the primary domesticated animal of the ancient Mayan and Aztec worlds.
The quintessential American Thanksgiving features turkey, corn, sweet potatoes, squashes and various desserts made with vanilla.
This is all Mexican food, and has been for more than two millennia.
Thank you, Mexico!